Grad Student Helen Yang Preps for a Year in China Through Schwarzman Scholarship

The IEOR student plans to study Chinese culture and smart-city initiatives.

Jan 23 2024 | By Allison Elliott
Helen Yang standing next to a plaque that reads "Schwarzman Scholars"

Helen Yang

Helen Yang, a master’s student in Operations Research set to graduate this spring, was named to the Class of 2025 for the prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship. The program is a fully-funded one-year scholarship based at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. 

Founded in 2013 by Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman, CEO, and cofounder of the Blackstone Group, the Schwarzman Scholarship was established to advance understanding and collaboration between China and the rest of the world through cultivating a new generation of global leaders. The scholars in the program will spend the year in study and have the opportunity to travel through the region and gain a deeper understanding of China. They will also build their professional and personal network through internships, mentorships, and lectures from distinguished speakers. At the end of the program, scholars will receive a master’s degree in global affairs.

Yang, who is originally from Beijing, is a Chinese-Canadian student from Montreal, Canada, where she earned an undergraduate degree in statistics at McGill University. Her interest in smart city initiatives brought her to New York City and Columbia Engineering and now she hopes to broaden her studies through the Schwarzman Scholarship. 

“Schwarzman College attracted me for several reasons,” said Yang. “First, I aim to widen my network and make new and lasting connections. Second, I am confident that exposure to China and its infrastructure will bring impactful influences on my interest in smart-city initiatives. Third, I'm taking on this chance to learn Chinese, see my family, and maybe travel around the country if time permits.”

After the scholarship, Yang would like to be involved with smart-city projects and is open to the new possibilities that will arise through the program. 

“I do believe that Schwarzman College will alter my long-term plan so I am eager to live the experience and adjust my plans for the future,” she said. “I find that time goes by very fast during my studies and I am actively trying to learn as much as possible about the world and myself.” 

Yang strongly encourages other Columbia Engineering students to apply for the Schwarzman Scholarship, sharing that the application process forced her to reflect on her goals, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Like many students, I used to feel lost and found it hard to answer ‘What is your plan for the next year?’ I still do, but less. Schwarzman College is one of the few institutions that admit its students by other measures than grades and academic achievement. On the day of my interview, I met many exceptional individuals from various fields and felt empowered to be able to join a group of open-minded and proactive people.”

Along with Yang, Jenna Yuan CC’24 and students from 43 countries are part of this year’s cohort of 150 Schwarzman Scholars. This scholarship program recorded a near-record number of more than 4,000 applicants from a variety of backgrounds for the Class of 2025. 

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